I have several photographer friends who have switched from a standard dSLR to a mirrorless camera at some point during the last years. Each time I would see their printed images I would think that the images were so much sharper than my dSLR cameras, even though I always carefully sharpen my images at the end of processing. That alone, the perceived sharpness, made me want to try out a mirrorless camera with the lighter weight and smaller body being a second reason.
Until recently, of course, I could not have purchased a quality mirrorless camera from Nikon so I continued to use my D800 and D500 as I did not want to use a different brand of camera. However, when Nikon announced that one of their new mirrorless cameras would be available in October I immediately hit that order button at B&H as my Nikon D800 was fairly worn out and giving me problems. I had hoped that the new Z7 mirrorless camera would arrive in time for me to try it out prior to my upcoming December trip to Cuba to learn street photography and it did. In fact, I took possession of it in the second week of October, a day before a planned trip to see if I could get some fall color shots in the High Sierra mountain range. It was a perfect opportunity to try out the new camera and I took the Z7 and the D500 with me, leaving the D800 at home. Since then, I have shot several hundred images with the Z7 and the sharpness and color of my images amazes me.
I ordered the Z7 with the f/4 24-70 lens as I did not have that lens and it seemed to be a good choice to round out my gear. I also ordered the adapter to use the camera with my other Nikon lenses. Initially, when shooting with it, it felt odd: I’m so used to a much heavier, more “meaty” type camera and I felt and still feel like I’m carrying around a little point-and-shoot camera, although it is anything but that. It is not only lighter but smaller and so much easier to handle than the larger dSLR cameras. To date, I’ve shot landscape scenes as well as a few shots of small animals and the camera has performed very well.
Most recently I photographed some fall pumpkins with it and the color it produces is wonderful. I also shot a bee on a bush using the 24-70 lens and then enlarged it in processing using Lightroom and the sharpness is still amazing. I have not yet used it on a tripod as I need to find out if Really Right Stuff has the connecter I need for my tripod, so everything has been hand-held to date. I do have a tripod connecter from some other camera that fits the bottom, with no ability to turn the camera vertical, so I can use a tripod but it’s been so easy to shoot hand-held with it that I have not even tried that.
I have tried long-distance landscape shots, closeup shots, shots using the lens wide open and I’ve been happy with all of the shots, but maybe I’m made happy easier than some other people. All of these shots seemed to work out well and the shots seemed to be razor sharp (but I am still compelled to sharpen when processing), at least when I was holding things steady they were razor-sharp. It is an easy camera to hold and use and sometimes, when I’m a bit unsteady (squatting for a ground shot or standing in a precarious position), I take several quick shots and for all images at least one has been very sharp.
I even shot a hand-held series of images to create a panorama in Lightroom and that image, too, was tack-sharp. Since sharpness was what had drawn me to the camera initially I am, at this point, very happy with the camera and the images it has produced. I have not yet printed anything so cannot comment on that but I expect the printed images to turn out well.
I am not a “techie” in the sense of setting things up and measuring and doing the math so I cannot comment from a truly technical perspective nor am I trying to. I generally measure more from a “seat of the pants” kind of sense and on how things actually look when finished and, from my perspective, I like how the camera and lens have performed. I did try my Nikon 24-120 using the adapter on the Z7 and the adapter was easy to use, similar to using a teleconverter, and the lens performed well on the camera.
One of the fun things I’ve tried with the camera is taking some shots of bees that were on a plant in my driveway, using the 24-70 lens, and then upsizing the best shots using Lightroom. I wanted to see how sharp the images would be when upsized. This camera is not a wildlife camera but it performed well with the bees and I was able to capture a few in flight. I got the Z7 to replace my D800 camera that I had used for still-life and landscape scenes and I did not and do not expect it to replace my very fast D500 that I have long lenses for in order to photograph wildlife.
I have, however, put the Nikon 80-400 on the Z7 to photograph a fire scene taking place in the hills a distance from my home, which was fairly far away, and that combination worked out very well. The bee shots turned out fairly well, too, and I was happy with the camera and what it did with the images. I use the Transform tool in Lightroom to upsize images and this tool has been great for wildlife and other shots where I could not get quite as close as I wanted to. I do also crop but I try, in general, to keep cropping to a minimum.
The camera has performed well at a somewhat higher ISO, too, where I recently shot pumpkins grouped together under a doorway entrance using ISO 800. The noise was not an issue for the pumpkin shots but I have not tried anything more than ISO 3200, where the image was taken in the early morning and it was a shaded, busy landscape scene, and that worked out fine, too.
It is amazing how slow the shutter speed can be and the camera still takes a sharp hand-held shot. The image of the wine corks is a good example of this. I pointed the camera down into a large glass bowl to get the shot of the wine corks. The ISO was already at 1250 and I did not want to go higher so I shot at the shutter speed set by the camera, which was only 1/6 of a second. I don’t think I could have done this with my D800 or my D500.
One of the things that I like best about the camera is that when using the viewfinder I can use all 493 focus points to select a point of focus, unlike my dSLR which limits me to a certain area when I’m using the viewfinder (I am aware that I have a greater choice when using Live View). I have found that the large file size of the maximum images does bog down my computer to some degree and is especially hard on my laptop.
Recently, I’ve been using the 25MP RAW size (technically called “medium”) and that size does not impede computer speed or the software’s ability to import or process. The medium size RAW FX image is 6,192 pixels by 4,128 pixels which equates to a printed image, 1:1 at 300 ppi, of about 20” x 14” and that works fine for how I print images, which is usually no larger than 10” x 15” for a 16” x 20” frame. The larger RAW size file is 45MP.
I’ll have to play around some more with the image size options and also many other options. While, as a long-time Nikon camera user, I could pick up the camera and simply start shooting without reading the manual, the settings do differ to some degree. I still need to read the manual, however, and have not done so yet but I’m still using the camera without any problem. Reading the manual is at the top of my To-Do list before my trip to Cuba in December so I can learn about street photography using my new Z7.
If you are thinking about switching to a mirrorless camera or, like me, replacing one of your Nikon dSLR cameras with a new mirrorless version, I think you will enjoy getting to know one of the two new Nikon mirrorless cameras. My Z7 has been a joy to use and I’m looking forward to learning it in more depth.
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